Another calendar year about to come to a close means that we can officially turn the page on another exciting year of professional tennis. Truly 2009 was not just an ordinary year in the history of the sport, but one that had fans and media alike talking tennis at great lengths over the past twelve months.
Tennis grabbed the headlines for a variety of reasons – some good, some bad – and captivated us from Rafael Nadal’s first hard-court Grand Slam victory in January to Nikolay Davydenko’s unlikely season-ending triumph at the Tour finals in November. In between we had a comeback like no other from Kim Clijsters in the summer and a meltdown from Serena Williams that made John McEnroe look like a saint. What about December you ask? Well hey, we have to give these guys a break sometime don’t we?
With all the high’s and low’s from the past year it is difficult to focus on just a few, but some certainly stood out more than others.
Roger Federer’s Achievements:
Up until the last Slam of the year in 2008, our boy Roger was getting a lot of flack from people about his performance on the court. No major titles to his credit, a thrashing by Rafa at Roland Garros and losing to the Spaniard again at Wimbledon did not bode well for his attempt at continued domination and his desire to topple the Grand Slam record held by Pete Sampras. Eventually he did win the U.S. Open to salvage some much needed respect and confidence – but could he maintain it in 2009?
Roger responded with authority by making all four Slam finals, finally breaking through at the French Open to complete his career-slam and re-taking Wimbledon in a match for the ages (yeah I know, we said that in 2008 too!) He broke Pete’s record with his 15th major title and also celebrated the year in his personal life with a wedding and the arrival of twins.
He is arguably now the greatest player of all-time and whether he adds to his Slam-total or not, it will be a good while before we even think about his record being challenged. Despite not being named the AP athlete of the year, this guy is as classy a champion as we’ll ever see. He is without a doubt, the tennis played of the year for 2009.
Serena Williams’ Ups and Downs:
On the women’s side the distinction of player of the year goes to Serena Williams. I’m not sure if the word ‘classy’ can be thrown in along with that, but her record at the majors was untouched. Slam victories at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, along with the season-ending championship in Qatar,’ all cemented her status as world number one. And let’s not forget her doubles accomplishments with sister Venus, as the duo won three Slams together and finished the year ranked third overall despite only entering six tournaments.
Negating some of the praise for her tennis achievements was the unfortunate meltdown in her semi-final match at the U.S. Open against Kim Clijsters. Her verbal assault towards a line-judge was completely unacceptable and brought all the wrong kind of attention to the sport in a match that should have been purely about two great and talented tennis players. Foot-fault or not, she was deducted a point according to the rules and as it was on match-point it ended up being the end of the contest.
Take away that one incident – if you can – and everyone would have been singing Serena’s praises for such a fantastic year. Personally I think we can shrug off this ugly heat-of-the-moment outburst and look for Serena to let her play speak for itself in 2010.
Big-name, small-name, older and younger, there were several notable comebacks in 2009. The most impressive no-doubt goes to a certain Belgian player named Kim Clijsters. Clijsters chose a difficult time of the year to return to professional tennis – halfway through the season – and knocked off some tough competition in her first two tournaments back. It was in her third tournament, at the U.S. Open however, that she really showed us what she could do. After more than two years away from the game, Clijsters knocked off both Williams sisters en-route to her second career Grand Slam title. Makes you wonder if a little time away from the game might help some other players seeking to win another major, doesn’t it?
Other returning players worth note include Taylor Dent on the men’s side who overcame a potentially career-ending back injury to jump from 804 to 75 in the ATP rankings. It’s nice to see the affable serve and volleyer back on the court after such a prolonged absence from the game.
Kimiko Date-Krumm showed us that age is but a number when she returned to the court at 38 years old and became the second-oldest player behind Billie Jean King to win a tour event.
Maria Sharapova returned from an injury to her shoulder that kept her away from the game for ten months. While her powerful groundstrokes remain a threat, her serve was a disappointment as she attempted to use an adjusted motion. If she can keep the number of double-faults to a minimum there is no reason why Sharapova cannot return to Grand Slam success. January will mark two years since her last major victory.
A final comeback worth noting is that of Justine Henin. While Henin has yet to play a competitive match, she made her announcement in 2009 and one cannot help but think the success of her fellow-Belgian Kim Clijsters was partially responsible. What a great boost to the women’s game that is already thriving with plenty of big-name appeal.
Andre Agassi’s Revelations:
When eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi left the game in 2006, he exited as a soft-spoken, elder-statesman of the tour and a highly respected ambassador of the sport. It was hard to remember him as the long-haired, Big-mac eating, rock-star Agassi of the 80s or the over-weight, sullen, challenger-level Agassi of 1997. Agassi’s autobiography, Open, reminds us of these times and other dark moments in his tennis career that we never even imagined.
Recreational drug-use, lies to Tour officials about dope tests, and a deep rooted hatred for the game were all shocking admissions that Agassi shares with his readers. How did Agassi’s confession sit with his peers and his fans?
Some, like Martina Navratilova, were quick to condemn him, while others like Andy Roddick stood firm behind him. Most voiced their surprise and disappointment and some applauded his candor. While the manner in which Agassi came clean is somewhat less than perfect, his book sheds much insight into the tortured inner-feelings of one of the sport’s more complex characters.
Many lessons can be learned from his writing such as the pressure tennis parents place on their children, the completely ineffective drug-testing policies the tour’s adhere to and the ability to overcome adversity and triumph through hard work and determination.
It was a year of major tennis accomplishments and disappointments for Israeli tennis players in 2009. The ugly side of sports emerged in February in the United Arab Emirates when politics and racism reared their head in a controversial decision that had everyone talking. Israeli top-forty player Shahar Peer was denied entry into the Emirates despite qualifying for direct entry into the tournament in Dubai. Tournament organizers hid their motives behind so-called fears of security concerns for Peer. In truth, this was just another example of a country that attempts to appear progressive displaying its shallow prejudice.
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour officials mistakenly allowed the tournament to continue despite Peer’s exclusion. Fortunately the situation was corrected in time for the ATP event the following week with Andy Ram playing in the doubles draw. Despite Ram’s entry, American Andy Roddick took a noble stand and refused to play due to the treatment of Peer. A nice gesture of solidarity on his part.
Just when that situation had resolved itself, Israel was once again in the middle of a controversy – this time in Malmo, Sweden, for a Davis Cup tie in early March. Player safety was again cited as the reason why the best-of-five tie would be played with no spectators in attendance. The controversial decision clearly did not help the favored Swedes, as Israel advanced with a surprise 3-2 victory.
Davis Cup would prove to be the saving grace for Israeli tennis in 2009, as the country would defeat a powerful Russian team to get to the semi-finals before bowing out against the eventual champions from Spain. With a roster compiled of unheralded journeymen such as Jonathan Erlich, Harel Levy, Andy Ram and Dudi Sela, Israel made it to their very first Davis Cup semi-final and shocked many along the way. After all of the sensational press they had received earlier in the year, it was a deserving, feel-good story for the Israelis.
Other Notable Events:
- Rafael Nadal’s first-ever loss at Roland Garros versus Robin Soderling. The most shocking loss of 2009 without a doubt and one that would greatly help Federer achieve his missing slam.
- Andy Roddick coming so close to winning his elusive second Grand Slam title. Boy did Andy ever take Roger into extra-innings at Wimbledon in June. He earned some much needed respect after that five set marathon.
- Melanie Oudin’s unexpected run at the U.S. Open where she made it to the quarter-finals. A nice shot-in-the-arm for American tennis that bodes well for the future.
- Drug suspensions and subsequent reversals for Richard Gasquet, Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse. It is time for the ATP and WTA Tour’s to conduct a serious review of how they handle positive drug tests. Gasquet’s excuse that he ingested cocaine from a night-club encounter with someone’s mouth just doesn’t sit right.
- The retirement of former Grand Slam champions Thomas Johansson, Amelie Mauresmo and Marat Safin as well as Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro and Ai Sugiyama
Monica is “head of the class” of the 2009 group of inductees in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She won nine major singles titles in her career – including four titles at the Australian Open. Her classmates are super agent Donald Dell, former French Open champion Andres Gimeno and Dr. Robert “Whirwind” Johnson. Bud Collins, himself a 1994 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the author of the definitive tennis encyclopedia THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, summarizes Seles and her career in this excerpt from his book.
How could anybody stop her? An all-time prodigy, a unique No. 1 with her double-barrelled fusillades—both hands on both sides—Monica Seles was a 19-year-old tearing up tennis until that fateful day in Hamburg, April 30, 1993. An allegedly demented German spectator, Guenther Parche, stopped her, struck her down with a knife in the back as she sat beside the court on a changeover.
The quarterfinal match against Maggie Maleeva ended at that abrupt moment, and so did tennis for a kid who seemed destined to be the greatest of all. She had won eight majors (three French, three Australian, two U.S.). After taking the U.S. of 1992 over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-3, 6-3, she was the youngest ever to hold seven of them (18 years, eight months), undercutting Maureen Connolly by three months. (Curiously, Connolly, who wound up with nine, had been cut off, too, as a teenager, in a traffic accident.) Breaking Steffi Graf’s four-year hold on the No. 1 ranking in 1991, Seles had held off Steffi in her last major appearance before her stabbing, to win the Australian, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
But putative assassin Parche intervened, claiming he knifed Seles to restore Graf to preeminence, a story the Seles family doubted. It was 28 months before Monica was seen on court again. The psychological damage had been more severe than the physical. She, like everybody else—except, apparently, the judge in Parche’s trial and re-trial—wondered why he was not incarcerated. “He’s still out there walking the streets,” she worried.
Attempting to put it behind her, Monica re-emerged in August 1995, beating Martina Navratilova in an exhibition at Atlantic City, content with the co-No. 1 ranking with Graf granted her by the WTA. Then acting as though nothing had changed, she was back in business—electrifyingly so. Opponents at the Canadian Open in Toronto acted as though they were seeing a ghost. They were—a ghost of championships past—as she marched to the title on a loss of no sets, 12 games in five matches, ripping Amanda Coetzer in the final, 6-0, 6-1.
On to the US Open, where she’d won 14 straight matches. The opposition continued to melt until the final, where Graf ended the streak at 20, fitter in the third set, 7-6 (8-6), 0-6, 6-3. At 6-5 in the tie-breaker, Monica groused at a call of fault on her bid—a fraction wide—for a set-point ace. She lost her composure momentarily, and may have missed the title by a smidgen of an inch.
Her return to Australia, where she’d never been beaten, was triumphant. She won Sydney from match point down over Lindsay Davenport, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, then the Open (Graf was absent) over Anke Huber, 6-4, 6-1, a ninth major title. However, after that, the 1996 season didn’t go as well as she and her fans had hoped. Knee and shoulder injuries were bothersome. Her conditioning was suspect; she pulled out of several tourneys. Though she did win three more tournaments and help the U.S. regain the Federation Cup, there was disappointment at the French and Wimbledon. Jana Novotna clipped her Paris streak of 25 in the quarters, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3. More painful perhaps was losing the last four games and a second-rounder at the Big W to an unknown Slovak, No. 59 Katerina Studenikova, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. “I’m playing too defensively, not attacking the ball the way I used to,” Monica said accurately. She was a finalist again at the U.S. Open but was pushed around by a charged-up Graf whose superior quickness showed, 7-5, 6-4.
Seles, a left-hander who has grown to nearly six feet, was born Dec. 2, 1973, of Serbo-Hungarian parentage, at Novi Sad in what was then Yugoslavia. Getting her started, her father, Karolj Seles, a professional cartoonist and keen student of the game, drew faces on the balls for her to hit. He and her mother, Esther, felt her future lay in the United States They moved to Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy at Bradenton, Fla., in 1986 when Monica was 12, and headmaster Nick oversaw her early development. Papa took over the coaching again at their Sarasota residence until his death in 1998. Monica became a U.S. citizen in 1995.
Monica sounded the alarm in 1989 as a 15-year-old by spoiling the last final of Chris Evert’s illustrious career in. Houston, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. “She’s the next,” exulted an overwhelmed witness, historian Ted Tinling. Soon after, “Moanin’ Monica” took her bubbly grimacing-and-grunting act to Roland Garros to show Parisians noisy tennis nouvelle: rip-roaring groundies, bludgeoned from. anywhere in a baseball switch-hitting style (the backhand cross-handed). She constantly went for winners, seemingly off-balance and out-of-position but buoyed by excellent footwork and anticipation. Graf barely escaped in the semis. But she wouldn’t a year later, in the final, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. Seles became a major player. She bounded into the world’s Top 10 in 1989 (No. 6) and was there through 2002, 13 years, (except for non- ranked 1994): No. 2 in 1990; No. 1 in 1991-92; No. 8 in 1993; co-No. 1 in 1995; co-No. 2 in 1996; No. 5 in 1997; No. 6 in 1998; No. 4 in 1999-2000; No. 10 in 2001; No. 7 in 2002.
For two-and-a-half years Monica was nearly invincible as the titles piled up and her ball-impacting shriek—“Uhh-eee!”—was heard across the globe. She charmed the public with girlish elan and mystified people by vanishing before Wimbledon in 1991 and then resurfacing to win the U.S. Open. She may have been psyched out of a 1992 Grand Slam when complaints about the grunting from Wimbledon victims, Nathalie Tauziat and Martina Navratilova, (leading to a warning from the referee) muted her in the final, where she was destroyed by Graf, 6-2, 6-1. Still, she was the first to win three majors in successive years since Margaret Court (three and four, 1969-70), a feat equaled by Graf in 1995-96. Among her souvenirs was the 1991 U.S. final, when at age 17, she defeated Navratilova, 34, a singular generation gapper, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1. Her brightest seasons of 10 singles titles each were 1991 (winning 74 of 80 matches) and 1992 (70 of 75).
At the close of 2003, after 12 pro seasons, and portions of two others, she had played 177 tournaments and won 53 singles titles with a 595-122 won-loss record (.836); 180-31 in the majors (.861). She has also won six doubles titles with a 89-45 won-loss record and earned $14,891,762 in prize money. She won a singles bronze at the 2000 Olympics, and won her last title, Madrid over Chanda Rubin 6-4, 6-2, in 2002. She was inactive after 2003, and announced her retirement in 2008. An exemplary figure who has coped well with much adversity, including several injuries, she was not the player she might have been, yet is clearly, constantly upbeat, saying, “Tennis will never end for me because I love it so much. When my professional career is over I will continue to play all my life.” Monica has put an indelible signature on the game with her style, persona and championships, a woman doubtless on a journey to the Hall of Fame.
MAJOR TITLES (9)—Australian singles, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996; French singles, 1990, 1991, 1992; US. singles, 1991, 1992.
FEDERATION CUP—1995-96, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002
SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS— Australian (43-4), French (54-8), Wimbledon (30-9), U.S. (54-10).
One of the many charms of Wimbledon is the numerous tabloid headlines and storylines during The Championships. Back on this day, June 26, in 2000, the U.K.’s Daily Mail labeled Vince Spadea as the “World’s Biggest Loser” after he finally broke his ATP record 20-match losing streak in the first round of Wimbledon, beating Britain’s Greg Rusedski in the first round. Screamed the Daily Mail headline after Rusedski’s 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 loss to Spadea, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.” Spadea, however, has proved to be far from a loser as the 34-year-old veteran qualified this year at Wimbledon (his 14th appearance) and reached the second round, losing to Igor Andreev. The book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com) chronicles the Spadea-Rusedski match – and others – in the June 25 excerpt below.
2000 – Vince Spadea breaks his ATP record 21-match losing streak by upsetting No. 14 seed Greg Rusedski of Britain 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 in the first round of Wimbledon. Entering the match, Spadea is winless on the ATP Tour since the previous October in Lyon, France. Says Spadea, “If I had lost this match I was thinking: ‘Holy goodness! I am going to have to stay in Europe until I win a match. But here I am, six months on. It was worth the wait.” The following day, Rusedski is greeted with the headline in the Daily Mail reading, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.”
2002 – Seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras plays what ultimately becomes his final Wimbledon match, losing in the second round – unceremoniously on the Graveyard Court – Court No. 2 – to lucky-loser and No. 145-ranked George Bastl of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4. Bastl, who enters the match having won only one main draw grass court match in his career, only gains entry into the tournament when Felix Mantilla of Spain withdraws the day before the tournament begins. Despite the loss, Sampras tells reporters after the match that he would return to the All England Club to play again, but after his U.S. Open triumph later in the summer, he never plays another professional match. “You know, I’m not going to end my time here with that loss,” Sampras says after the match. “I want to end it on a high note, and so I plan on being back… As long as I feel like I can continue to win majors and contend, I’ll just continue to play.” Says Bastl, “It’s a nice story isn’t it? I gave myself chances because I was practicing on grass for the last three weeks. I had won my last three matches and I knew my game was improving match by match. I felt I would have some sort of a chance.”
1951 – On a cold and rainy afternoon, Althea Gibson walks on to Centre Court at Wimbledon as the first black player to compete in The Championships. Ten months after becoming the first black player to compete in a major when she played the U.S. Championships the previous summer, Gibson wins her first match in her debut Wimbledon, defeating Pat Ward of Great Britain 6-0, 2-6, 6-4. Reports the Associated Press of Gibson, “Although the tall Negro girl is unseeded, she convinced the British experts that she has the equipment to rank high in the world within another year or two.”
1962 – Eighteen-year-old Billie Jean Moffitt beats No. 1 seed Margaret Smith 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the opening round of Wimbledon, creating history as the first player to knock of the women’s No. 1 seed in the opening round at the All England Club. Smith is the heavy favorite to win the title after winning the Australian, Italian and French Championships entering the tournament. Billie Jean, who goes on to win six singles titles at the All England Club– and a record 20 titles overall at Wimbledon. Writes Bud Collins in The Bud Collins History of Tennis, “Her victory established ‘Little Miss Moffitt’ as a force to be reckoned with on the Centre Court that already was her favorite stage.”
1965 – Manuel Santana becomes the first defending champion to lose in the first round of Wimbleodn when he is defeated by Charlie Pasarell 10-8, 6-3, 2-6, 8-6. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the Pasarell’s upset of the No. 1 seed, “Over 150 spine-tingling minutes this afternoon, the Puerto Rican was the better tennis player, stronger on serve, more secure on volley, and rock steady in the crises.” Says Santana, “Charlito was good.He was fast and hit the ball hard.”
1978 – Bjorn Borg performs a first-round escape on the opening day of Wimbledon as the two-time defending champion staves off elimination by six-foot-seven inch, 220-pound Victor Amaya of Holland, Mich., prevailing in five sets by a 8-9, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 margin. Amaya, who wears size 15 sneakers, leads Borg two sets to one and 3-1 in the fourth set and holds break point in the fifth game to go up two breaks in the fourth set. “He played better than I did on the important points, and that’s always the difference in a five-set match,” says Amaya. “He came up with great shots like that on crucial points, and that’s why he is great.”
1998 – After no victories in 17 previous matches, including a 6-0, 6-0 loss 10 years earlier in the final of the French Open, Natasha Zvereva wins her first match against Steffi Graf, defeating the German 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of Wimbledon. Graf is hampered by a hamstring injury and is playing in only her fifth event of the year after recovering from knee surgery.
2007 – In his last Wimbledon singles match, Justin Gimelstob makes Wimbledon history as the first player to use the “Hawk-Eye” instant replay system at the All England Club. In his 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) first-round loss to Andy Roddick on Court No. 1 on the opening day of play, Gimelstob uses the Hawk-Eye system to challenge one of his serves in the first set. Says Gimelstob of his new status in Wimbledon history, “I’d like to have a few more important records, but I’ll take what I can get.”
1990 – John McEnroe is defeated in the first round of Wimbledon for only the second time in his career, as the 31-year-old three-time champion is sent packing by the hands of fellow American Derrick Rostagno by a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 margin. McEnroe is joined on the sideline by newly-crowned French Open champion and No. 5 seed Andres Gomez, who falls to American Jim Grabb 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. “I’m going home to Ecuador and watch the matches on TV and pretend I never was here,” says Gomez. Future seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras is also sent packing in the first round by South African Christo van Rensburg, who defeats the No. 12 seeded Sampras 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.
1985 – French Open champion Mats Wilander of Sweden is dismissed in the first round of Wimbledon as six-foot-six, No. 77-ranked Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia defeats the No. 4 seeded Wilander 6-2, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.
2004 – The USTA names the 2004 U.S. Olympic tennis team during the same day that the Olympic flame is run through the All-England Club at Wimbledon. Named to the U.S. Olympic tennis team were Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Vince Spadea, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Chanda Rubin, Lisa Raymond and Martina Navratilova.
Men’s Singles: Roger Federer beat Andy Murray 6-2 7-5 6-2
Women’s Single: Serena Williams beat Jelena Jankovic 6-4 7-5
Men’s Doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 7-6 (5) 7-6 (10)
Women’s Doubles: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6-3 7-6 (6)
Mixed Doubles: Cara Black and Leander Paes beat Liezel Huber and Jaime Murray 7-6 (6) 6-4
Junior Boys’ Singles: Grigor Dimitrov beat Devin Britton 6-4 6-3
Junior Girls’ Singles: Coco Vandeweghe beat Gabriela Paz Franco 7-6 (3) 6-1
Junior Boys’ Doubles: Nikolaus Moser and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe beat Henri Kontinen and Christopher Rungkat 6-7 (5) 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Junior Girls’ Doubles: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Sandra Roma beat Mallory Burdette and Sloane Stephens 6-0 6-2
“I was that close to winning so many of the big tournaments this season … I was disappointed not winning the Olympics. I was disappointed losing the epic at Wimbledon, but this was as big of a goal maybe this season. I mean, going for five US Opens is probably the last time ever in my career I’ll have that opportunity, so to keep it alive … is something I’m very, very happy about.” – Roger Federer.
“Usually after a Grand Slam I feel like I still have another match to play, but I don’t really feel that way today. I feel liked it’s done and it’s all over and I’m so excited.” – Serena Williams, after winning her third US Open singles championship.
“I had a great two weeks. I really fought hard out there every match, and tonight I really gave everything I had.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Serena Williams in the women’s singles final.
“It’s obviously been a very good couple of weeks. And I’ll try my best to work on my game, work harder, and hopefully come back and do better next time.” – Andy Murray, after losing the men’s singles final.
“I accept the losses with the same calm when I win. So I am disappointing? Yes. But at the same time I am happy because I did good semifinals here.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Andy Murray.
“It was in the back of my mind that I hadn’t won this one. I woke up this morning with a purpose. I woke up really fired up.” – Leander Paes, after winning the US Open mixed doubles with Cara Black.
“I would say that we’re probably one of the best doubles teams there has been in a long while, and we feel confident that whoever we lay against that we’ll give them a good run for their money.” – Liezel Huber, after teaming with Cara Black to win the women’s doubles.
“I’m like on cloud nine right now. This is my first junior tournament win in the ITF, and to do it at the US Open is an every greater achievement for me.” – Coco Vandeweghe, after winning the Junior Girls singles.
“I’m happy about the way I lost. I think that when you get into the court, you can win or lose, but at least I gave everything that I could inside the court, so I’m happy about that. I’m not happy about the loss, but that’s the sport, how it is.” – Tommy Robredo, after his five-set loss to Novak Djokovic.
“I’m the first one actually to do everything. I mean, that’s not my goal, to be the best in Luxembourg.” – Gilles Monfils, a qualifier who reached the quarterfinals.
“The people enjoy the match. He’s more happy than me, but I’m not sad.” – Juan Martin Del Potro, after losing a four-set, four-hour quarterfinal to Andy Murray.
“I’ve been playing pretty high-risk, high-reward tennis and I probably wasn’t about to stop. Given the choice again, I’d probably go for them again. That’s what got me back in the match.” – Andy Roddick, after losing to Novak Djokovic.
“Devin gave me a hard time in the first set and especially in the beginning of the second. But I found a way to manage my game, and that was the key.” – Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Devin Britton to win the Junior Boys crown.
“I’m not sure whether I should sing the anthem, do a cartwheel or tell you guys to vote, but I’m the proudest American right now.” – Liezel Huber, a South African-born American, after she and Cara Black won the women’s doubles.
“This is the best team we could assemble at the moment.” – Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev, whose team does not include Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva, French Open runnerup Dinara Safina, former number one Maria Sharapova and top tenner Anna Chakvetadze.
With his victory over Andy Murray, Roger Federer has won an Open Era record five consecutive US Open singles titles and become the first player in any era to win five straight Grand Slam tournament titles at two different events. Federer also won five consecutive Wimbledons before losing the final to Rafael Nadal on the grass of the All England Club in July. It also is Federer’s 13th Grand Slam tournament crown, one behind men’s record-holder Pete Sampras. In a twist of fate, Sampras won his 14th Grand Slam crown on September 8, 2002. This year’s final was scheduled to be held on Sunday, but was pushed back to Monday, September 8, by Tropical Storm Hanna’s heavy rains two days that cut short Saturday’s play.
It took a long time for Serena Williams to win her third US Open title, something she accomplished by defeating Jelena Jankovic 6-4 7-5. Her other two US Open championships came in 1999 and 2002. Her last Grand Slam title was at the Australian Open in 2007. By winning, she became the number one-ranked player on the WTA Tour for the first time since August 2003, the longest gap at the top for a woman in ranking history. She now has won nine majors, while this was the first year since 2001 that she played in all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Bob and Mike Bryan didn’t drop a set at the US Open as they won their seventh Grand Slam tournament men’s doubles title, defeating India’s Leander Paes and Luka Dlouhy of the Czech Republic 7-6 (5) 7-6 (10) in the final. The American brothers previously won at Roland Garros in 2003, the US Open in 2005, Wimbledon in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2006 and 2007. By losing, Paes lost a chance at a US Open doubles double, having already won the mixed doubles crown with Zimbabwe’s Cara Black. Paes won a doubles double in 1999 at both Wimbledon and the French Open. With the victory, the Bryans regained their world number one ranking.
Cara Black had an excellent US Open. She teamed with Liezel Huber to win the women’s doubles, the team’s eighth title this year, by beating Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur. Earlier in the final week, the native of Zimbabwe teamed with Leander Paes of India to win the mixed doubles title. In that final, Black and Paes beat Huber and Jamie Murray.
SAMPRAS A CHAMPION
Pete Sampras, a five-time US Open winner, and Molla B. Mallory are the 2008 inductees into the US Open Court of Champions. The tennis shrine is located just inside the South Entry Gate at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Sampras played in eight US Open finals and compiled a 71-9 record, the second-best winning percentage in the tournament’s history, trailing only Bill Tilden’s 71-7 mark with a minimum of 50 matches played.
Alicia Molik of Australia is calling it quits. The 27-year-old Mollik has retired from international tennis after a long run of injuries, including a debilitating inner-ear virus. Molik peaked at a world ranking of number eight after she reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2005, but was sidelined for most of the rest of that season because she was unable to balance due to the ear virus. She won the bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and played in the Beijing Olympics last month, losing in the first round. During her career, Molik won five WTA Tour singles titles and two Grand Slam doubles titles, at the Australian and French Opens.
Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpischchev will not have his country’s top players when Russia takes on Spain in the final. Six Russians are ranked in the top ten on the WTA Tour, but only Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva will play Fed Cup. They will be joined by Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Olympic champion Elena Dementieva and silver medalist Dinara will miss the final in Madrid in order to chase ranking points at a tournament in Tokyo, Japan. Maria Sharapova has an injured shoulder and Anaa Chakvetadze is not physically fit.
SERENA, SAFINA IN DOHA
Serena Williams and Dinara Safina have clinched spots in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held November 4-9 in Doha. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the title and a share of the record prize money of $4.45 million. Previously qualified were Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic in the singles. Besides her US Open triumph, Williams lost to her sister Venus in the Wimbledon final. Safina has had her best season so far, going 37-4 since the beginning of the European clay season, including finishing runnerup at both Roland Garros and the Olympics.
The WTA Tour will have 54 tournaments across 31 countries and record prize money of more than USD $86 million in 2009. There will be 20 premier events, down from 26, and four tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing – will be mandatory. Under the new structure, top-10 players who miss premier events after making a commitment to play will face suspension, and there will be increased withdrawal fines. The rankings system will focus on players’ best 16 results, and the year will conclude at the end of October, giving players nine weeks before the start of the next year. And on-court coaching will be allowed next season.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) is upset with private promoters canceling tournaments over what it calls bogus reasons. Consequently the AITA wants to have direct control over future tour events. An ATP event, the Bangalore Open, was cancelled for what the promoters said was security reasons. And a WTA Tour event in Mumbai, promoted by a company owned by Indian player Mahesh Bhupathi, also has been cancelled. AITA secretary Anil Khanna said both events were cancelled because the organizers could not find sponsors. India has two other events, the Chennai Open for men and a women’s event in Bangalore.
Rafael Nadal has been named winner of the prestigious Prince of Asturias Sports award for 2008. Eighteen members of the 24-man jury, which was presided over by former International Olympic Committee chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch and which met in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, voted for Nadal, who was selected over US Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and Olympic 100 meters champion Ursain Bolt of Jamaica. The Spanish football (soccer) squad, which won this year’s European Championships, was also among the candidates.
The world’s top-ranked player believes outgoing ATP chief executive Etienne de Villiers should have communicated better with the players. De Villiers, who is stepping down when his contract expires in December, has been criticized by Nadal and other players. Asked at the U.S. Open what he’d like De Villiers’ successor to do, Nadal said: “For me, most important thing is, first of all, a little bit more communication than the past. For sure, the second thing is one person who knows a little bit about the tennis, no? And one person who wants to talk about with the persons who knows the tennis well.”
Leader Paes now has a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles. The Indian star teamed with Cara Black of Zimbabwe to beat Britain’s Jamie Murray and American Liezel Huber for the US Open title. Paes teamed with American Lisa Raymond to win the French Open and Wimbledon in 1999, and with Martina Navratilova for titles at the 2003 Wimbledon and Australian Opens.
STARK TO NEWPORT
The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, has a new museum director. Douglas A. Stark, a native of Holyoke, Massachusetts, will oversee and manage the museum’s collection, permanent and traveling exhibitions, educational programming, and the activities of the Information Research Center. Stark was formerly with the United States Golf Association Museum, serving most recently as curator of Education and Outreach.
The US Open will have a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium sometime in the future. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” said Arlen Kantarian, the US Tennis Association’s CEO for professional tennis. “It’s the right next thing to do.” Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hanna caused the final Saturday’s schedule to be curtailed, with the women’s final played on Sunday night and the men’s final pushed back to Monday.
Fresh off winning her third US Open, Serena Williams announced she will participate in the PNC Tennis Classic on November 21 in Baltimore. The Classic is a charity event begun by Pam Shriver. Net proceeds from the Tennis Classic are distributed to children’s charities under the guidance of the Baltimore Community Foundation. Since 1986, over USD $4 million has been raised and distributed to many needy non-profits.
Bud Collins was named winner of the ATP Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award during the US Open. Rafael Nadal, the world’s top-ranked player, presented the award to the writer, historian, broadcaster and Tennis Hall of Fame member. His latest book, recently released, is The Bud Collins History of Tennis. The annual ATP award goes to a media member in honor of Ron Bookman, who died in April 1988.
SITES TO SURF
Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$416,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romania, clay
$125,000 Open d’Orleans, Orleans, France, hard
$225,000 Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic, Bali, Indonesia, hard
$100,000 Vogue Athens Open 2008, Athens, Greece, clay
Spain vs. Russia at Madrid, Spain, final, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$125,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland
$1,340,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard
$175,000 TOE Life Ceramics Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard
World Group Semifinals
Argentina vs. Russia at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay
Spain vs. United States at Madrid, Spain, clay
World Group Playoffs
Chile vs. Australia at Antofagasta, Chile, clay
Great Britain vs. Austria at Wimbledon, England, grass
Switzerland vs. Belgium at Lausanne, Switzerland, hard
Croatia vs. Brazil at Zadar, Crotia, hard
Isral vs. Peru at Ramat Hasharon, Israel, hard
Netherlands vs. South Korea at Apeldoorn, Netherlands, clay
Romania vs. India at Bucharest, Romania, clay
Slovak Republic vs. Serbia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard
Europe/Africa Zone Group I
Italy vs. Latvia at Montecatini, Italy, clay
Belarus vs. Georgia at Minsk, Belarus, hard
Europe/Africa Zone Group II
Monaco vs. South Africa at Monaco, clay
Ukraine vs. Portugal at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard